The Gift of Giving this Holiday Season

Jordan Meaker, Center Stage Editor

The holidays are upon us once again, and with their arrival comes the annual frenzy of gift-buying for family and friends. You rush into and out of a million stores, make your list of gifts (and check it twice), and gather all the presents to go to those nearest and dearest to you. And while this is an anxiety inducing task, it somehow all becomes worth it when you see your friend’s face light up when they see what you got them, or your younger sibling playing on the carpet with their new toy. Often times, giving out gifts makes us feel happier than receiving them. So what is it about the act of giving that gives us such a rush of contentment?

This question, like many others, can be explained by science. A study conducted at the National Institutes of Health discovered people who donated to charities experienced positive, fulfilling emotions and “warm glow” type of feeling. When they donated, it activated a region of the brain associated with trust and pleasure. In addition, giving gifts inspires gratitude in the recipient, which in turn causes the creation of a stronger bond between the giver and the receiver.  Research done by Nathaniel Lambert at Florida State University shows that “expressing gratitude to a close friend or romantic partner strengthens our sense of connection to that person.”  All of this increases immensely one’s personal happiness as well as, of course, the happiness of those around them.

Not only does giving give us a warm, fuzzy feeling inside, it can also start a chain reaction and become, almost literally, contagious. One woman from Florida started a chain reaction of giving when she decided to pay for the meal of those in the Chick-fil-A drive-thru behind her. Those people were inspired, and decided to pay for the folks behind them, too. When all was said and done, 18 people in a row had paid for other’s meals. The Chick-fil-A employees said that good feelings were everywhere and that everyone “was just so full of energy and uplifted that night.” It seems as that even only one person doing a nice deed for someone else can encourage altruism in many others around them due to the good feelings that giving stimulates.

If ever the stress of the Christmas season starts overcoming you, it would no doubt be helpful to think of something you could do for others. Giving a present to your mom, paying for a friend’s meal, or even making a donation to the canned food drive or the clothes drive here at school could all be instant pick-me-ups that can help you stay cheerful this holiday season. Giving is scientifically proven to put a smile on your face.